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Forgo Powdered Mixers and Crushed Ice for a True Margarita

Jack Bettridge
From the Print Edition:
Jim Nantz, May/June 2011

If you've ever bellied up to a beach bar at spring break and ordered one of those frozen concoctions from a Slushie machine to help you hang on, you may have thought you were drinking a Margarita. With all apologies to Jimmy Buffett and his legion of Parrotheads, you were not. A true Margarita is made in a shaker uses fresh lime juice, quality Tequila and triple sec—no crushed ice, no powdered mixers.

While the origins of this neoclassical cocktail have been obscured by the many who claim to have invented her-and possibly by the effects of the drink itself, it stands up so well straight up that it's a pity to adulterate it with crushed ice. Plus, when you make them individually, you have the tasty option of fine tuning with the high-quality Tequilas now available.

Here's the recipe we use. Feel free to adjust the ratio. Two parts Tequila, one part freshly squeezed lime juice and one part triple sec (Cointreau or Grand Marnier). Put the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice, shake well and pour into a glass; extra ice is optional. To salt the rim of the glass, moisten it with water or lime, then dip it down onto a plate of sea salt.

What's interesting is how the drink changes depending on the choice of spirit. Of course, a silver Tequila will render something wholly different from one that's aged, but the lime and triple sec also offer synergy. When mixed as a Margarita, for instance, we found the Casa Noble Anejo to pop with tangerine. The crystal clear Maestro Dobel, on the other hand, showed orange flavors. The lime was the star in the Patron Silver cocktail. The 1800 Silver let the drink's flavors shine. When the 1800 Anejo was used, it again produced tangerine.

Citrus flavors are not the only result of this mixture. Gran Centenario Anejo brought butter and graham crackers to the party. Herradura Reposado similarly added cream as well as some floral notes. The reposado from El Corazon is also floral and perfumy with a measure of salt and wintergreen. Avion, hot off its star turn on television's "Entourage," is a sweet spirit, informed by bread dough, that becomes tart and energetic in a Margarita. Don Julio Reposado produced notes of butter, corn and nuts. El Tesoro Anejo adds flavors of butter rum, graham cracker, maple and jalapeño. Tres Generaciones Anejo's contributes vanilla, licorice and marzipan. Reserva de la Familia is similarly licorice, but with candy notes.

Also, fascinating is the way Tequila can reference other spirits. Cabo Wabo Uno smacks of Bourbon and maple. El Tesoro has Cognac notes.

Sounds better than a Slushie, huh?

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Comments   2 comment(s)

Bryan Slatner August 12, 2011 10:30am ET

Way better than a Slushie.

My personal recipe:

3 parts lime juice
1 part orange juice
4 parts simple syrup
Some salt (to taste)
Add tequila until your volunteer tester makes a face and says "WHEW!!!"


Michael Boujoulian — Arlington, MA, USA,  —  August 12, 2011 1:09pm ET

I'm a little more simplistic in my approach

*3 parts top shelf tequila
*2 parts fresh lime juice
*1 part Agave Nectar

Pour contents into shaker half filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Pour over 2 or 3 cubes in a salted glass. Garnish with lime wheel.

Switching the citrus to grapefruit or others can make these really interesting and special.


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